One of my favorite cold-weather comfort-food meals in Paris is cassoulet, and I’ve tried this tasty white bean, duck and sausage stew at several Parisian eateries. A few years ago, I stumbled across the very best cassoulet I’ve ever tasted, at Au Bon Saint Pourcain — a tiny restaurant in the shadow of Saint Sulpice church in the Left Banks 6th Arrondissement.
Au Bon Saint Pourcain is the quintessentially French bistro–creaky wood tables, worn tile floors, aged photos and artwork on the walls, and seating for about 20 people tops. This fantastic eatery offered cuisine bourgeoise, according to the signage on its deep green facade, offered by owners Cyrille and Francois Associes, who lived just upstairs. (Francois has been described as the textbook French restaurant owner–gruff but loveable, with a sharp memory of even once-yearly customers and a true pride in the dishes he served.)
Even the family’s daughter, Fabienne, got into the act, serving as a non-nonsense waitress-hostess-bartender.
Visitors to Paris began to note in mid-2014 that the restaurant was temporarily closed, with signs in the window indicating “Ferme Pour Travaillez (Closed for Work).” But after several months of seemingly no progress, patrons–locals and visitors alike–began to wonder when the renovations would be complete.
Sadly, “Paris Journal” blogger Francis Levy writes on Huffington Post that the restaurant is closed for good. Francois reportedly sold the business and has retired to Brittany, France, where he owns a home.
In reporting the closure, Levy writes, “Au Bon Saint Pourcain was the vestige of another era. It served home cooked meals in the same atmosphere that might have greeted an allied soldier during the liberation of Paris. … Au Bon Saint Pourcain served hearty dishes–beef bourguinon, cassoulet, boudin, chicken chasseur, tarte tatin– that had no pretentions to greatness, but which made you feel great. You never feared going home hungry or with that empty feeling that sometimes occurs when you wonder if the Paris of yesterday only exists in the photos of Robert Doisneau or Henri Cartier-Bresson.”
Experiencing Paris of yesteryear has become just a little bit more of a challenge now that we’ve bid adieu to Au Bon Saint Pourcain.
Best of luck in your retirement, Monsieur Associes. And good luck to we lovers of cassoulet who are now facing the daunting task of finding another truly great cassoulet restaurant in the City of Light.